Understanding the True Cost of Vacant Properties in Baton Rouge

Project Sponsor

  • Manny Patole, Community Engagement Lead, Linking Flood Resilience to Urban Reinvestment in Baton Rouge
  • Dr. Rebeca de Jesus Crespo, Department of Environmental Sciences, LSU


Vacant and abandoned properties represent a financial burden to municipalities, and a health and safety hazard to communities. Returning these vacant properties back into productive use is of great economic interest in terms of tax revenue, the real-estate and commercial activity they could bring to an area, and also in terms of lowering maintenance cost of waste removal, and green space management, which often falls into the hands of municipalities. These costs have not fully documented or understood for Baton Rouge, LA.

Category: Urban Environment

Project Description & Overview

Our desired output will be a GIS layer of parcels classified in terms of their current status (vacant or not), years since they have been vacant, costs per year on maintenance, and a review of existing knowledge on the existing human health and well-being costs of urban blight in Baton Rouge, LA.

While there is interest in revitalizing city centers, policy hurdles associated to succession titles and property rights limit the options available on a short timescale; while many properties sit idle waiting for title clearing for decades, housing demand continues encroaching into natural areas that are crucially needed in Louisiana for flood mitigation services. Our project seeks to bring attention to the need for policy reform to address the use of vacant and blighted properties, by conducting a costs assessment for the maintenance of vacant and blighted properties in the city.

We will research existing vacant, adjudicated and blighted properties and classify them in terms the number of years they have been under adjudication and blight classifications. We will reach out to local stakeholders and look for existing databases for information on the annual costs of maintenance for such properties. With the number of years and annual cost, we will make an estimate of the current expenditures in blighted properties, and couple that information with a review of local costs of blight for human health and well-being (crime statistics, nuisance pests, 311 calls).


We currently have access to most of the data required. However, we would coordinate with orgs like Center for Community Progress, Smart Growth America, Grounded Solutions, The National Community Stabilization Trust and others who have data on VADs, weak real estate markets, census data, and other related demographic and financial data to help us fully evaluate our desired output and outcomes.


Spatial, Data, Policy Analysis
Some level of experience with tools like Python, R, ArcGIS
ability to conduct intermediate mathematical equations
Ability to conduct critical analysis

Learning Outcomes & Deliverables

Creation of a GIS layer that is open-source for our overall project
Documentation of the process to quantify the total cost of VADs on cities
Understand the opportunity cost of not looking at VADs as community assets for economic development